Note-Picking Not Nitpicking

We have all heard of nitpicking arguments to try to deny a proposition, but have you ever heard of note-picking arguments used to try to do the same?

In Chambers v. Reliance Standard, 2013 WL 3712415 (S.D.Ohio) the insurance company did just that in an attempt to cut a claimant off from LTD benefits. While the claimant’s doctors found him to be unable to work because of HIV, peripheral neuropathy and the effects of the medication he was required to take, Reliance found themselves a doctor who read the medical reports and based his opinion on side notes the claimant’s doctors wrote, while ignoring the important main notes they wrote about his condition.

Mr. Chambers’s treating doctor had written in his notes that he was “…doing OK with methadone…still has some trouble feeling sleepy.” And another, “pain control is good, but tired and some constipation. Has painful area on right foot. Otherwise no complaints.”

In coming to a decision in favor of Mr. Chambers, the Court agreed with him that Reliance and its doctor “cherry-picked” the medical records to come up with the few notes that seemed to back denial while completely ignoring the meat of his doctor’s reports which substantially supported Mr. Chambers’s claim for benefits.

Reliance also totally ignored the finding by SSA that claimant was totally disabled in coming to its decision to halt claimant’s benefits.

On appeal to the insurance company, claimant submitted a letter from his treating doctor, a specialist in HIV/AIDS, stating that his patient might be able to do a sedentary job for 10-20 hours a week, but that he was not able to work full time in any occupation because chronic fatigue prevented him from performing adequately in any physical capacity for more than 4 hours a day. The doctor further noted that persistent pain would impair his ability to concentrate and that the medications he was taking caused fatigue and lethargy.

Although giving deference to the denial decision of the plan administrator, the Court found that the decision to terminate benefits was arbitrary and capricious and reinstated the plaintiff’s benefits.

In this case, Reliance proved something we have said many times before. Insurance companies have no shame in their quest to keep as much money in their pockets as they can. We were flabbergasted by Reliance accusing claimant’s treating doctor as acting “more as an advocate then a doctor rendering objective opinions”, indicating the physician changed positions to help the patient obtain benefits.

This in the face of insurance company conduct in case after case where they make it a practice to hire only doctors who make their living by being blind to claimant disabilities.

Talk about the pot...


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